Mariska Hargitay Pays Heartfelt Tribute to Late 'Law & Order: SVU' Co-Star Richard Belzer

The Law & Order: SVU family recently lost one of their own with the death of actor Richard Belzer, who starred as Detective John Munch on the show. Now, series star Mariska Hargitay has paid a heartfelt tribute to her late co-star during an appearance on the Today show. "What a heart and soul," she told host Savannah Guthrie. "He was family and taught me so much about taking risks and creativity and trust, and he brought so much joy to the set."

Hargitay continued, "He was this acerbic, quick-witted, brilliant mind and yet he would melt in the sight of a child. He was just such a beautiful and complex [person] and it was such a privilege to know him." In a previous memorial to Belzer, Hargity wrote in an Instagram post, "Goodbye my dear, dear friend. I will miss you, your unique light, and your singular take on this strange world," she wrote. "I feel blessed to have known you and adored you and worked with you, side by side, for so many years. How lucky the angels are to have you. I can hear them laughing already. I love you so very much, now and forever."

Belzer was an actor and comedian who was most well-known for playing NYPD officer John Munch on SVU. He originated the role in 1993 on Homicide: Life on the Street, which was created by Dick Wolf, and then continued on when SVU debuted in 1999. Notably, Belzer portrayed Munch in episodes of many other TV shows, making Munch the only fictional character to appear on more than 10 different television series as played by one actor.

The beloved actor died on Sunday, with a close friend of Belzer's revealing the news and sharing his incredible last words with the world. According to THR, Belzer passed away at his home in southwest France. Writer Bill Scheft, a longtime friend of Belzer, made the announcement, explaining that Belzer "had lots of health issues." Scheft also revealed that Belzer's "last words were, 'F— you, motherf—er.'"

Following his death, many of Belzer's other Law and Order co-stars took to social media to mourn his passing. In a post on Twitter, Christopher Meloni shared a photo of himself giving Belzer a kiss on the cheek while telling his late friend, "I love you," in the post caption. Ice-T added, "Highs and Lows... After one of the most amazing weeks of my life. I wake up to the news I lost my friend today. Belz is gone.. Damn it! But remember this..'When you ARE having real fun and are Truly Happy. ENJOY it to the fullest! Cause Pain is inevitably coming.' I'll miss you Homie."